Under Big Skies and Blazing Sun in West Texas

Texas is being good to us, and we love it here. Never in a million years did we think we would say this. As native West Coasters, we fell for the popular snotty stereotype about the Lone Star State: that it’s flat, boring, full of rednecks and the only redeeming thing about it is Austin.

Rio Grande Village Hike View of Big Bend Window

Now that we’ve been to the Great State two times in the last year, we just want to say; We were wrong. Sorry Texas!

The most peaceful, relaxing drives we’ve had in the last two years have been along the back roads of West Texas. The land here is as varied and beautiful as anything we’ve seen in our travels. Nowhere else in the United States can you drive through such wide open spaces and see vistas that go on for miles, without a single inhabitant except for a herd of cows. Tall rock formations line the horizon against a deep blue sky, and even if you’ve seen “No Country for Old Men,” Hollywood still can’t come close to replicating this kind of beauty. One visit to Big Bend National Park, and you’ll see for yourself how stunning this country is:

We haven’t been to a national park since saying goodbye to Jerry in Yellowstone. Coming here felt somewhat like a betrayal to our baby, since the last time we set out to do the tourist thing was with him.

Jim, Rene and Spirit at Big Bend National Park

But I knew if we didn’t go to Big Bend now, years might go by before we had the opportunity to go again. Since it was “only” 240 miles out of the way from our next destination, the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, and diesel is hella cheap in Texas, we went for it.

Arriving at the park and hitting the trails without him didn’t seem right at first. But after a day of sweating in the blazing sun, and getting stabbed by cacti on the trail, I realized that Jerry probably would’ve hated this kind of terrain, which helped my pangs of guilt to subside.

27 thoughts on “Under Big Skies and Blazing Sun in West Texas”

  1. When someone hollers “Texas” my ears perk up like sun baked prairie dog chasing a field mouse who just escaped the prickling juices of a hungry snake’s jowls.

    The human brain cannot consume, manage, nor store the volume of tales both real and or fabricated in this high and dusty terrain that dips it’s shoreline into the golf of Mexico.

    How many of us can claim to live in a state’s whose baked horizon is comprised of feldspar, quartz, coyote, rusted columbines, and doe-eyed cattle whose calm makes time stand still.

    The few rivers of Texas flow slow and easy, as if near coagulated. The distances between people and things is just enough to give one and all the space to be themselves without intrusion or consequence thereof.

    The Texan is a product of vastness, vastness of mind, body, and hospitality. Boundless and as abundant as their good natures allow cause the average Texan – if there ever was such a thing – will always strive to put their best boot forward with regard to human relations. In other words, overt and demonstrated courtesy is the minimum standard by which most Texans live by.

    Take in the poetry, sip a longneck, and chew that steak ever so slowly, but above all else, savor that dry air and all it’s history.


    • And how many of us love a state so much that we’ll decorate practically everything we own with the state flag theme? Or wear it as a t-shirt? Ever see a New Yorker or a Californian wearing a t-shirt patterned from their flag? I don’t think so.

      Yeah, there is something magical here. Your description does it justice. Except I won’t be chewing on a steak anytime soon.

  2. My brothers friends who live near Big Bend use rain water. They collect it from their home’s roof and anywhere else they can. I am not sure how big their barrels are.

  3. you guys look so cute! glad you are enjoying the lone star state! i have to admit, since we are east-coasters & current west-coasters, we thought austin was the only cool part too! but you have enlightened us! 🙂

  4. Well, Louise, this snobby, ignorant Californian wouldn’t want live in a state where the head of education believes and wants taught in the schools that Big Bend and all the rest of that pretty scenery was created 10,000 years ago. Just sayin’. To each his/her/its own.

    Rene, if you guys ever find the right combination of location, price and water, I will be the first to stand up and cheer, wherever it may be. Who would have thought that it would be so challenging. You could practically write a book that’s the opposite of all those “Best 100 …fill in the blank… Towns”. It would probably sell like hotcakes. And since you’re on the road, no one would be able to find you to sue you 😉

    • Ok Susan, I’ll let you know when we find it.

      I’ve been reading Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley,” and just came across this passage which is so appropriate right now. I totally understand what he is saying here. Steinbeck married a Texan, so he knows what he’s talking about:

      “I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery and paradox. Any observations of mine can be quickly canceled by opinion or counter-observation. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feeling that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study and the passionate possession of all Texans.”

    • Susan, wow. Just, wow. That wasn’t aimed at you.

      We lived in California for over 20 years and consider it our home state emotionally (not legally anymore). So…wow.

  5. I’ve thought before that Austin was the least redeeming aspect of Texas, rather than the most. 🙂 And I’m an east-coaster, so I started from the stereotypes too. But once you come to love the big open spaces, well, there you are.

    I haven’t made it to Big Bend yet. It’s been on my list for years, but it’s just so far out of the way of anything…

      • Oh and I think it’s interesting you felt that way about Austin. So many of my friends think it’s the coolest, and best part of Texas. I have to say I do like visiting there, and god what amazing music it has, but I sure wouldn’t want to live there.

        • I’ve actually only been to Austin once, so I probably shouldn’t make snap judgements. 🙂 But it’s almost like not even being in Texas — it’s like a little island of California, except that they like barbecue a little more.

          I bet I would like Austin more if it weren’t trying to be in Texas. 🙂

          • Agree with you on that one. I visited Austin in the early 90s and it was a much different place then, way more laid back, just like the movie Slacker depicted it. Today it’s all rush rush and a lot like Berkeley or San Francisco. I wouldn’t live there now, but back then I almost did.

  6. Oh, we loved Big Bend! We hiked, we did the world’s dumbest kayaking trip (paddling upriver in 2 inches of water, most of it portaging) and saw some amazing scenery. A trip not to be missed, because, really, what excuse is there if you live on the road!? Besides, you get to go through Marathon on the way there and take cheesy photos! We were very glad we didn’t let our East Coast stereotypes of TX get in the way, though I could still do without Dallas…

    • We agree..skip Dallas and Houston, maybe Port Charles. The rest is pretty neat though.

      Your kayaking trip sounds like something we would’ve attempted. Doh!

    • Louise I love your video! Really fun, looks like the cats had a ball. Out of all of the states we’ve been to, I think that Texas could turn us into birders. There are just so many incredibly stunning varieties there.

  7. I have to say that TX ranks up there in the top 5 for us. Big Bend is probably our favorite National Park. We’ve been there more than any other NP.

  8. Texas does look good in the video. A friend of my brothers built a small home near Big Bend National Park. They volunteer at the park. They spend the winter at Big Bend and the summers in Wisconsin. You two look like you fond a home in the picture.

    • We had high hopes of finding some land in Terlingua, right outside the park. The land is cheap (less than $500 an acre in parts!) but hauling in your own water isn’t, unfortunately, and it’s what you gotta do if you want to live there. In thinking about what diesel fuel will eventually cost again, we decided against seriously looking there.


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